Our Parasha for this week directs our attention on building a just society with a strong and independent judicial structure. While last week’s parasha called us to have mercy and compassion for those of our society who are less fortunate, this week’s message is that mercy misapplied can be just as tyrannical as overzealous justice. Why is that?

Last Sunday, the SAJBD had its annual conference. Key note speaker was the former public protector Adv. Thuli Mandonsela. In her thought provoking speech, she made a point that resonates with our parasha: We need to be careful not to create new victims and not to allow that former victims become villains. Our parasha calls us in the same way not to be single sided if it comes to justice:

“You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. Justice, justice shall you pursue …. (Dtn 16:18-20)”

The other point I took from her speech was her appeal to see the potential in every member of our society, and that we need to create opportunities to develop them. The most successful way to give Tzedaka is – according to Maimonides – to empower the other to sustain themselves, and not to keep them on the level of beggars.

This is what our Mitzvah school is doing and what Molly Smith and Lesley Rosenberg have been rewarded for. They saw, 30 years ago, the potential that is embedded within those kids who needed help to continue their education, and they never stopped to see this spark in others since. They never pampered one learner, Matric at Mitzvah School is not a simple and easy thing, it needs and demands hard work of every single student, but all students have finished the year stronger, self-aware and conscious of their own potential. At Mitzvah there are no victims, but the next generation of builders of a just society.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Torah Reading Shabbat Shoftim

Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9 – Reading Dtn 16:18-17:20
Plaut p.1294; Hertz p.820

Haftarah: Isaiah 51:1-52:12
(Plaut 1316; Hertz p.835)

In our Torah portion:

* Laws regarding both sacred and secular legislation are addressed. The Israelites are told that in every dealing they should pursue justice in order to merit the land that God is giving them.

* The people are warned to avoid sorcery and witchcraft, the abhorrent practices of their idolatrous neighbors.

* God tells them that should an Israelite unintentionally kill another, he may take sanctuary in any of three designated cities of refuge.

* Laws to be followed during times of peace and times of war are set forth.